A few weeks ago my friend Danielle told me about an article she’d seen in the star where the writer offered some wines to re-stock your wine rack for under $100. If I remember correctly, her exact words were “you could do a much better job”. Well, Danielle, thank you for the compliment and challenge accepted!
In the original article the writer offers five wines – one rosé, two whites and two reds. I suppose the rosé snuck in there because the article was published in March and maybe the writer wanted to prime us all for rosé season. But I think rosés are too seasonal and ethereal to go in a list like this, so instead I’m offering you a sherry.
With a theoretical $100 to spend, here is what I would choose.
I was at home over the Easter weekend and this year it happened to coincide with my brother Nick’s birthday. For the past few years he’s requested a wine tasting from my parents as part of his celebrations and, wonderful parents that they are, they’ve obliged.
With my post about Malbec a couple of weeks ago I’m now halfway through Wine Folly’s Noble Grape Challenge. Created as a challenge to learn about the range of wine, the Noble Grape Challenge lists nine red and nine white ‘noble’ varieties – generally speaking, the most widely planted varieties throughout the world – and challenges the reader to taste through them all as a way of getting to know the breadth and depth of wine created throughout the world.
At this point it feels like a good time to take a look back on how things went and a look ahead at what awaits.
I know, I know, it’s been a while since we did this. Let me refresh you – Wine Folly created the Noble Grape Challenge as a way to learn the spectrum of flavours and characteristics found in red and white wines. Taking nine reds and nine whites, we’ll go through them from lightest to darkest, learning about the key characteristics and flavours of each.
About Cabernet Sauvignon
Unsurprisingly, France grows the most Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, buuuuuuuut they usually blend it with other things. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the main five varietals of the Bordeaux region, and most (if not all?) wines in that region are blends.
Also, did you know that the Cabernet Sauvignon grape is actually a hybrid? It’s true! Check out the centre column of the adorable drawing below.
See? Cabernet Franc + Sauvignon Blanc = Cabernet Sauvignon!
I’ll wait while you recover from your newly blown mind.
Cab Sauvs are one of the more fuller bodied reds out there, and tend to be more opaque but still reddish in colour. Flavours found often include dark fruits and black pepper. Generally speaking this is a confident wine that you could drink with other stronger flavours (a burger or some full-flavoured cheese, perhaps) or sip on its own.
Right off the bat I could see some age in the colour. It was still decidedly red, but there were some brownish undertones that tell me this isn’t a wine that was bottled yesterday.
It smelled nice and bright and quite fruity. I came back to it the next day and smelled lots of depth and earth, too. I love how much wine changes over time once you open it, always full of surprises!
The flavour was full of fruit – all I could think of was ‘red fruit’ but, as usual, couldn’t pin it down more than that. I was intrigued and excited to taste some black pepper too, it helped balance the fruitiness. As expected, on day two the flavour had softened quite a bit. It got more velvety and I tasted some vanilla that wasn’t present the first night.
A wonderful and enjoyable Cab Sauv. I know I’m a bit of an omnivore when it comes to wine (there is very little I don’t like) but I do think this is a really solid wine, and in keeping with everything else I’ve had from this maker.
But does it taste like what we now know a Cabernet Sauvignon should taste like? You bet it does! Full bodied and fruity, with some lovely peppery-ness when you take a sip – this is a great example of a Cab Sauv.
It’s also a great example of a wine that can be enjoyed over a couple of nights. No need to finish it on night one – you should get a bottle just for you and taste it over two or three evenings to see how it changes.
Well, that was fun! It’s nice to be back in the swing of things.
I had a long weekend a couple weeks ago and decided to head home to visit my family. While planning what I’d like to do with my parents the idea of a wine tasting came to mind. It had been a while since we’d done one and we thought, why not?
I was also bringing home two good friends who live in the Niagara wine region of Ontario, and so I suggested we frame the tasting as a Canada-Europe grudge match. My stepdad was happy to oblige and managed to find three Canadian reds and three French ones, pairing three different varietals – Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
I should note that the French wines are most likely blends (most French wines are) and so my stepdad was probably guided by the region in matching these wines with their Canadian counterparts, since each region specializes in a few different types of grapes.
So, how do we do tastings? I thought you’d never ask!
I happily benefit from my stepdad’s years of practice in planning and hosting tastings – by the time I met him he had it down to a science and an art. Over the years he has devised a double-blind system that means no one at the tasting will know which wine is which.
The wines all nestled in their sleeves, waiting for us to enjoy them
My mom and stepdad are a great wine tasting team – he will open the bottles and either decant them or put them in sleeves, and then she will come by and put a little coloured sticker on each bottle. He doesn’t know which wines are which colour and she doesn’t know which wine she’s labelling – it’s win win!
He’s also created a great grid to help structure the tasting.
In case you can’t make out the wine list, here is what we tasted:
Clos deu Marquis, Saint Julien, France (1997)
Marynissen Vineyard, Lot 66, Niagara Peninsula, Canada (1997)
Chateau de Courteillac, Entre-De-Mers, France (1998)
Mission Hill, Merlot, BC, Canada (2001)
Couly-Duthiel, Les Gravieres, Chinon, France (2001)
We usually make it an informal and fun affair, and put out cheese and baguette to munch on as we go. The baguette helps cleanse the palate, wiping out the flavour of a wine before going on to another. I usually stay away from the cheese until I’ve finished filling out the grid because the flavour of the cheese will change how you taste the wine, and that usually makes things go haywire for my still-learning palate.
So How Did the Tasting Go?
All set up and ready to go
My main goal was to try and correctly identify some wines. It sounds like an easy task but is actually pretty hard! I’m good at knowing the flavours I do and don’t like, and am getting better at being able to differentiate between varietals, but knowing which wine is exactly which? I’ve got a ways to go.
My place at the table
I made a bigger effort to fill out the entire grid this time, even though my stepdad always tells us the only thing he needs from us is our rankings (he keeps all the sheets from each tasting he hosts!). These tastings are great practice at being able to identify what I’m smelling and tasting, so I focused on that for the first few minutes. It was a while before I even took my first sip!
It was a really tough tasting in terms of the rankings. Everyone around the table agreed that we all really liked all the wines! I managed to come up with some sort of ranking, but to be honest I could easily have switched my numbers around and been just as happy. And no, my stepdad wouldn’t let me rank ties – I asked!
I managed to correctly identify two of the wines – a new personal best!
Interestingly, the averaged rankings are close to my rankings. With one exception, each average rank is only one off from mine, and a couple ranks were the same. All but one of us chose the same wine as our number one pick, and of course once we had averaged our rankings we were all dying to know which wine was which.
And the winner is…
They’re arranged in order of average rank first to sixth, left to right
I can tell you, we were all surprised that a Niagara wine ranked number one! It just goes to show that sometimes a wine or region will surprise you, and that its worth trying new wines because you never know what you’re going to like.
Once the grand reveal was over, there was only one thing left to do – go back and re-taste! Like good wine tasters, we finished the bottles.
I don’t think we used enough glasses…
See? Tastings can be lots of fun, and aren’t very difficult to arrange – you should try it!
Welcome to Palate Practice
Hi! I’m Meg.
I live in Toronto and have been enjoying wine since tasting the stuff at Sunday family dinners. I love learning about different wines and the stories behind them.